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Types of K-12 Dance Programs

There are various types of dance programs in K-12 schools throughout the United States.  From elementary school dance programs, to conservatory style programs.  Read on to learn more about what dance education looks like all over the country.

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Grade Level Dance Programs in K-12 Education

Dance Integration Programs

Teaching Artist Programs and Residencies

What do dance education programs in the U.S. look like?

Grade Level Dance Programs in K-12 Education

young students dancing with blue scarfs on a basketball court

Elementary School Dance Programs

According to the Arts Education Data Program, dance was offered in 4% of the elementary schools analyzed in their 2018-2019 study. In some elementary schools, dance is offered as a “special” along the lines of music, physical education, or visual art. Other schools integrate dance and movement into the classroom, using dance to help students explore concepts related to math, language arts, science, and social studies. Dance is often presented through creative movement, with an emphasis on basic dance concepts like body, time, space, and energy, and a focus on engaging students’ creativity and imagination.

Middle School Dance Programs

A group of dancers on stage in a line with the arms above their heads.  They are wearing gray tshirts, black leggines, and a flannel tied around their waist.

The Arts Education Data Project found that dance was offered in 6% of schools analyzed in their 2018-2019 study. In the middle school setting, dance may be a compulsory class taken by all students, or an elective that students can opt in to. Some students may have dance experience from elementary school or outside training at a studio or community program. Other students may be completely new to dance. There might be differing levels of interest from students at the middle school level, in particular. Some will be very comfortable with movement and others may reject the thought of it entirely. Many students will be adjusting to their changing body, peer relationships and social structures, and fluctuating self-confidence levels - all of which can influence how they choose to participate in their dance classes. In some middle school dance programs, classes are divided into units based on different dance techniques and styles. Other programs focus on creative movement, student composition, or connections between dance and the academic curriculum.

High School Dance Programs

a group of high school students stand on stage in a circle holding hands

Dance was offered in 15% of high schools analyzed in a 2018-2019 study by Arts Education Data Project, which means that dance is most commonly offered at the high school level. In many high school dance programs, dance is offered as an elective course. Students receive either Fine Arts or Physical Education credits for these courses. Dance may be offered as a single, mixed-level course, or there may be several classes offered in different levels. Often, students study many different dance genres in a single semester or year long class. However, some programs offer specialized classes in areas like dance production, composition, or specific techniques. Many classes are open to all interested students. Enrollment in advanced or honors, classes, as well as special dance company programs, may be on an audition basis. Students will often have performance opportunities, and may participate in programs like the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.

Conservatory-Style Dance Programs in K-12 Education

Some K-12 schools offer conservatory-style dance programs, with a full schedule of dance-related classes for students who are serious about dance training. Students in these programs take several dance classes each day, rather than a single class as an elective. They may also take composition, dance technology, or theory classes like dance history or kinesiology. These dance programs will often accept students on an audition or application only basis. Often, but not always, conservatory-style dance programs are offered at the middle and high school level at charter or magnet schools with a performing arts focus.

Dance Integration Programs

Some schools do not offer dance as a stand-alone class, but integrate dance into other subjects. An arts integration specialist or dance teacher will work with classroom teachers to design movement activities that help reinforce student learning in subject areas like math, science, language arts, and social studies.

Teaching Artist Programs and Residencies

Ramya Kapadia standing with group of elementary school kids in a classroom.e Fall 2019,

Teaching artist programs and residencies are another way that dance is offered in K-12 education. In these programs, a contracted teacher or organization comes into the school and offers dance classes outside of the official curriculum. These teachers are hired by an outside company, such as a dance company or performing arts organization, which contracts with the school on a short-term basis to provide workshops, sessions, or semester-long dance experiences for some or all of the school’s students. Because teaching artists programs originate outside of the school, they are not the focus of these webpages. However, it is important to acknowledge the value that these residencies add, especially in schools without a formal dance program.

What do dance education programs in the U.S. look like?

Dance programs in U.S. public schools diversity and richness public schools, offering students a wide range of dance styles, experiences, and performance opportunities.

Harrisonburg High School in Virginia offers several different dance classes, from Dance 1 through Dance Company Honors, exploring various dance genres and cultural perspectives. Students have performance opportunities, including concerts and community events.

Centennial High School in Nevada offers Dance 1 through Advanced Dance classes, biannual student-choreographed dance concerts, and a dance team that performs at games and competitions.

The dance program at Holton-Arms School in Washington, D.C. spans from elementary to upper school, offering various dance styles, including student choreography.

North Port High School in Florida offers five levels of block dance classes, accessible to all students, with an annual state assessment.

Xavier College Preparatory in Arizona offers a wide range of dance classes, including Freshman dance, Dance Basics, Intermediate Dance, Advanced Dance, Tap, Musical Theater, and Performance Dance, with an emphasis on community outreach and a diverse dance curriculum.

Liberty High School in Virginia provides dance classes, starting from 8th Grade Dance to Advanced Dance, with a certified dance educator.

young dancers in pink and orange fringe dresses perform on stage.

Princeton Day School in New Jersey offers dance classes from 6th to 12th grade, including a dance company and student choreography.

Great Oak High School in California offers Beginning, Intermediate/International Baccalaureate Year 1, and Advanced/International Baccalaureate Year 2 dance classes, with a comprehensive curriculum covering various dance styles.

The Hammond Art and Performance Academy in Indiana offers dance majors, non-major classes, and adaptive dance. Students perform both on and off-site.

Jones College Prep in Illinois offers Honors Dance classes based on the National Core Arts Standards (NCAS), focusing on modern, ballet, and West African dance techniques. Students perform in annual concerts.

The dance program at Lick-Wilmerding High School in California covers multiple dance styles and cultural equity in dance. It includes a residency week with a guest teacher.

Portage Park Elementary in Illinois is a public elementary school that offers dance education from Pre-K through 8th grade, including creative movement and culminating performances.

The dance program at Garfield Public Schools in New Jersey serves both middle and high school students, offering general dance classes to students with various levels of experience.

At Richlands High School in North Carolina dance classes are offered in a block schedule, with performances at the end of each semester and opportunities for community performances.

La Quinta High School in California offers a competitive co-curricular hip-hop team and concert dance classes that explore various styles, including jazz, ballet, contemporary, and modern.

Winter Springs High School in Florida has a competitive varsity dance team that competes in various dance styles, including high kick, pom, jazz, and contemporary.

The dance program at El Cerrito High School in California includes Dance 1 to Dance Production courses, offering diverse opportunities for students, including leadership roles.

At Franklin High School in Oregon their mission is to train interdisciplinary performance artists. The program covers various dance styles and regularly brings in guest artists for diverse experiences.

The dance program at Dover Public Schools in New Jersey spans four levels of dance classes, exposing students to various dance genres. There's a culminating show at the end of each year.

group of high school dance students dressed in various costumes smiling with their dance teacher.

Morris County Vocational School District in New Jersey offers a vocational program that requires an audition and offers dance education alongside academics and internships.

Harrison High School in New York (pictured left) provides four levels of dance classes, including diverse dance styles and opportunities for student choreography.

Jackson County High School in Georgia offers various dance styles, workshops, and over ten performance opportunities a year.

Hoover High School in Alabama offers five dance classes, including junior varsity and varsity dance team classes, serving approximately 115 students each year.

The dance program at Liberty High School in Colorado has multiple levels of dance, including a Dance Leadership class and opportunities for performances and competitions.

Novi Community School District in Michigan offers dance classes for various levels, including Novi Dance Company, which performs and competes.

Photo Credits (in order of appearence): Photo by Karen Campbell Kuebler, photo of John Hopkins Middle School dance students by Kelli Cardinal, Action shot courtesy of Carly Elisabeth Liegel by Edmond, photo courtesy of Ashley Zardus of Novi Dance Company,  photo courtesy of Ramya Kapadia, stage shot courtesy of Wiindemere Prepatory School, photo courtesy of Deborah Toteda at Harrison High School

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